One of the many aspects of Italian culture that is famous worldwide is its impressive food offering. Who has never tried a fragrant pizza coming out of a wood-fired oven, or a steaming pasta dish featuring a delicious, flavoursome sauce? Exactly, so here are a few pasta facts for you.
It is said that Marco Polo was the person who introduced pasta in Italy when he came back from his adventures in China. The Venetian explorer may well have brought back pasta with him, but the fact is that it was present already in his home country. There are tales of the ancestor of pasta, called “lagane”, also made out of wheat and reminiscent of lasagne, as early as the Etruscans. Noodle certainly showed up again during the invasion of Italy by the Arabs, a few centuries later. Since then, the production of fresh and dried pasta has been thriving, becoming more and more popular. Dried pasta is ideal to store due to its keeping for a long time, and it is simple and quick to prepare. The next big step in the history of pasta happened in the nineteenth century, when it found its ideal match, the tomato.
Today, at least three hundred and fifty different shapes have been accounted for in Italy. And if you add to this count the various regional versions, who knows how big the number is going to be? Conchiglie, linguine, farfalle, orecchiette, to name but a few, their exotic-sounding names add to the enjoyment of eating them. There is also a reason why pasta is shaped differently: it is to marvelously marry with the sauce accompanying it. The long sort, spaghetti for instance, is best eaten with light and airy sauces, using a tomato or olive oil base. The flat sort, think tagliatelle, is perfect for thick, creamy sauces. As for the tubular version such as penne, they will go best with a chunky topping. And finally, there is also a wide variety of stuffed pasta – spinach and ricotta filled ravioli, anyone? – and soup pasta, beloved by children when alphabet- or star-shaped!
If you are feeling adventurous, why not try some unusual recipes? For vegetarian options, go for sun-dried tomatoes and tofu, pesto with a twist as you add avocado to that classic dish, or pumpkin, sage and walnuts. With fish, try scallops in an orange sauce or tuna, artichokes and peppers. And for meat lovers, hot chicken and tomato sauce or, as a winter dish, cabbage and spare ribs!
So, are you hungry yet? Then you might want to go and hunt in your cupboards, it would be surprising if they do not hold at least one packet of pasta…